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by Hedgebrook Staff

Dear Hedgebrook,

I knew who you were before we met. We had a chance encounter early in my life, when I was just beginning to find out who I was, but before I was ready to be that person. I came for a day, to help with the Women Playwrights Festival, and I was enchanted and delighted by the grounds, the magic, the spirit of this place doing something I could only begin to understand to support women writers. I was into you, but it was a casual thing.

Years later we met again, when I was more ready for a serious commitment, having sown some oats in other nonprofits, theatres, educational institutions. You provided the stability I needed to anchor me to my own life. I wasn’t sure I wanted to settle down, but there you were. Maybe this won’t work out, I told myself, but it’s worth a try.

I suppose I was still pretending to be a grown up when I signed onto the “senior leadership team” (and to be honest, maybe I’m still pretending), but you took me seriously. You believed the story I spun about what I could bring to this organization and kept listening as I talked myself into a bigger and bigger role. You asked the right questions to keep me talking, to deepen my commitment. Soon I began to suspect that even though I was making it up as I went along (who isn’t), the telling of this tale was more truth than fiction. We had something real.

As I leaned into your warm embrace of the career I didn’t know I wanted, the path became clearer. I began to know myself through you. You nurtured me with the same radical hospitality you show to the writers who fill your cottages, the same deep empathy you show to everyone who comes in contact with this amazing organization. You became the community I didn’t know I needed, empowering me to claim my own story.

You have been there for me through the best and worst moments of my life these past seven years, including the birth of my son and the literal breaking of my body in an unforeseeable accident. Through all of this, you have taught me how to keep the fire going. To trust myself. I will be forever grateful.

Hedgebrook: it’s not you; it’s me.

I’m leaving this organization I still love and cherish deeply not because I’m unhappy or unsatisfied, and certainly not because there’s anything wrong. I’ve grown because of you. I believe now that I have something to offer, and I need to take this flame you’ve helped me tend to start a new campfire. I need to pass the torch. Like the hundreds of writers who have come through your gates and then reluctantly taken the long ferry ride back to their lives, I’m empowered to author change.

I know you’ll find someone new, and I’m sure I’ll be a little jealous. We’ll both continue to grow in new ways. But know this: Hedgebrook, you’ll always have a piece of my heart.


About the Author:

LouiseMcKayM. Louise McKay has served as the Director of External Relations at Hedgebrook for the past seven years, overseeing a crack team of marketing and fundraising divas in Seattle’s Pioneer Square. Louise is a former educator, consultant, and coach with a practical and academic background in the performing arts and nonprofit management. She will begin her new work as the Director of Strategic Growth for the Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas (formerly 826 Seattle) later this month. In her free time, she wrangles a house full of boys (preschool, teen, and spouse) and one very patient cat in North Seattle.





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Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily representative of the opinions of Hedgebrook, its staff or board members.


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  • Jennie Shortridge
    1:25 PM - 3 September, 2015

    Two very lucky organizations, your former and future employers, and both close to my heart. Congratulations, and see you around BFI!

  • Marsha Barton/Mom
    1:42 PM - 3 September, 2015

    So proud of the strong, loving, intelligent, and articulate woman our little Hahoo has become! Love and best wishes for your future growth and happiness. And thanks for discovering the beauty of Hedgebrook and the Northwest, then sharing it with us.

  • Rebecca Cleary
    2:44 PM - 3 September, 2015

    wishing you the happiest of transitions, Louise. Hedgebrook will miss you and your new organization will be greatly enriched! Thank you for wall you have done to help continue the unfolding of such a powerful and dynamic haven for women’s creativity and voices!

  • Sarah Ladipo Manyika
    8:43 PM - 3 September, 2015

    And know this, Louise: first loves are never forgotten! We’ll miss you and the Greater Bureau of Fearless Ideas will be blessed to have you.

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